Tuesday, 17 September 2019
Latest news
Main » Scientific First: Water Found On Planet Outside Our Solar System

Scientific First: Water Found On Planet Outside Our Solar System

13 September 2019

Astronomers can only see this exoplanet's upper atmosphere, but it's twice the size and has eight times mass than Earth. The total amount of solar irradiation that Earth and K2-18b receive is approximately equal.

The results are doubly exciting, Tsiaras noted, given this is not only the first Super Earth with water detected in its atmosphere but the planet also resides within the habitable zone of its star.

The exoplanet, known as K2-18b, is eight times the mass of Earth and known as a super-Earth, or exoplanets between the mass of Earth and Neptune.

"This is the first time that we have detected water on a planet in the habitable zone around a star where the temperature is potentially compatible with the presence of life", she was quoted as saying in a BBC News report.

While K2-18b represents a potential to be Earth-like, it also is quite different from the planet that we call home.

More news: Antonio Brown Practices With Patriots for First Time

Scientists have made the first successful detection of an atmosphere with water vapour around the exoplanet K2-18 b.

Li Zeng, a planetary scientist at Harvard University not involved with the new study, said the results came as "no surprise", as he expects many exoplanets similar in size to K2-18b to have water "as a major constituent of their bulk interiors", he told Gizmodo in an email. "While not a true Earth-analogue due to its size, this bodes well for our exploration of small planets", Josh Lothringer, who studies exoplanet atmospheres at Johns Hopkins University in the USA, said on Twitter.

"This represents the biggest step yet taken toward our ultimate goal of finding life on other planets, of proving that we are not alone", said the study's lead astronomer, Bjorn Benneke of the University of Montreal.

Sadly, exoplanets in orbit around red dwarfs are considered poor candidates for habitability, owing to the propensity of this group of stars to produce tremendously powerful and frequent solar flares. Signs of atmospheric water, oxygen and methane would all be signs that a planet may support life. However, it brings us closer to answering the fundamental question: "Is the Earth unique?" study first author Dr Angelos Tsiaras said in a statement issued by UCL. The London data suggest water vapor makes up anywhere between 0.01% and 50% of the atmosphere - "quite a big range", Waldmann acknowledged.

However, some scientists who were not a part of the research, said the planet should not be described as "habitable".

More news: Kevin Hart Released From Hospital 10 Days After Violent Car Crash

Aside from the tremendous distance separating Earth from K2-18b, the exoplanet is likely exposed to far more radiation than Earth, diminishing the prospects for life evolving there.

So far, attempts to gauge the atmospheres of terrestrial super-Earths have failed, either because of thick clouds (as was the case for Gliese 1214 b and HD 97658 b), a lightweight, featureless atmosphere of just hydrogen and helium (as for 55 Cancri e), or no atmosphere and no clouds at all (as for six of the planets in the TRAPPIST-1 system).

"This planet is about the same temperature as Earth, but 2.7 times larger".

The next generation of space telescopes, including the European Space Agency's ARIEL mission, will be able to observe atmospheres in more detail.

Ingo Waldman, on the University College London team, explained that three different scenarios fit the data equally well: The atmosphere could be pure hydrogen with lots of water, or the atmosphere could contain hydrogen and nitrogen with just a little bit of water.

More news: Amnesia Collection out today on Nintendo Switch

Scientific First: Water Found On Planet Outside Our Solar System